When we moved to Kavousi, we were aware that there were a number of archaeological sites in the area and that it was closely associated with the Minoans in particular, but little did we know just how many there are!
Vince and Rosy arrived two weeks ago from London. Vince is an old friend from university days – meaning that I have known him for fifty years (scary!) and Rosy is an artist with a long-standing interest in the Minoans. So, it should come as no surprise that their stay should take in a number of the sites in the area. Indeed, over the ten days they were here, we managed to tick off nine sites in all, of which six were within a few kilometers of Kavousi and three within walking distance of our house!
As they are also keen walkers, this meant we could combine walking with viewing and during their stay, we had two particularly good walks, one of which must rate as one of the great classic walks in Crete, although compared with the Samarian Gorge, it is comparatively ignored in the guide books. Anyway, more of this walk later.
On their first day, we allowed them some time to get their bearings but in the afternoon visited the coastal community of Mochlos which about five miles away, having looked across to the island of Pseira on the way – itself having been an important community in Minoan times. Most of the archaeological remains in Mochlos are on an island opposite the village which in Minoan times was joined to the mainland by a causeway, so mostly we could only look from afar. However, there are a few sites of interest in the village itself which got Vince and Rosy into the swing of things.
The next day, we took them along the NE coast and showed them the monastery at Toplou, which, it being Sunday, was unfortunately closed and from there to the Doric (ie largely post-Minoan) site at Itanos, which we had first been to last year.
To complete the day, we stopped off at Paleokastro and found what for us was a new site at Rousolako. This was obviously a large town in its heyday and supports the view that the Minaons were sophisticated urban dwellers, some 3,500 years ago.
Over the next few days, we took our visitors to Pyrgos, near Myrtos on the south coast and to Vasiliki which is just a few miles from Kavousi.
Vasiliki is a small site but important because it gives its name to a form of pottery which is found all over eastern Crete. And towards the end of their stay with us, we dropped them one morning at Gournia, one of the best preserved Minoan town sites, which is just a few miles down the road, while we went into Ierapetra to do a few chores.
But what of these walks? The weather had been overcast for the first few days of Vince and Rosy’s visit but it gradually improved to the point where we felt a longer walk was possible, so one fine day we decided to take them up the gorge here in Kavousi to visit the Minoan site of Azorias, which sits above our village.
A couple of days later, we headed for the hills again, although we shortened the trip by an hour or so by driving up to the ancient olive tree and leaving the car there.
We then re-traced our steps from the earlier walk, nearly to Azorias and then headed up the mountain to locate a ‘lavada’ or concrete water channel (those who have been to Madeira will know all about these). Eventually, we found it and took the small path running alongside.
It gently climbed the side of a steep hill but soon turned a corner into the opening to the gorge, which we had seen from the other side of the valley on the previously. Still, the gradient was very easy and we made good progress accompanied by the gentle sound of the water burbling down the channel beside us.
Bonnie led the way but as usual was keen to ensure that we all kept together but the path was so narrow in places that it was difficult for her to round up her flock!
Suddenly, the path steepened and for half an hour or so, we climbed sharply up the side of a small side gorge which we were to see from the top later in the day.
Eventually, we came out to a place which seemed to be the top. This proved a false dawn as the lavada crossed to the other side and we had to do the same. This involved clinging to some rickety metal handrails and scrambling up the rock face. At this point, poor Bonnie had to be rather unceremoniously lifted bodily upwards to enable us to continue!
After another half an hour or so, we did finally reach the top and eventually found the dirt road leading to the Kastro – a slab of rock sitting high above Kavousi on which there once was a Minoan settlement.
They were allegedly a peaceful race but there must have been some dangerous folk about to have required living at such a height for the purpose of security or perhaps they just wanted to be nearer to their God!
The route down was uncertain and we definitely did not want to retrace our steps so we headed down in the general direction of the E4 path, walks on which, we have described in previous postings. It was steep but the path was mostly clear although obviously not in regular use. However, finally, after a couple of hiccups, we reached the E4 at a place we recognised and from there it was a relatively easy descent back to the car via a further archaeological site at Vrondas.
I think Vrondas is my favourite among all these sites, not because it is large or the buildings well-preserved but rather because of its position – the views in every direction are to die for and unlike many other locations, it is relatively flat, although built on the top of a rise. The spring flowers were out, the sun was still shining and it felt good to be alive in the late afternoon after such a fine outing.
Vince and Rosy have now returned home to London after having spent a few days in Heraklion. When asked to choose her favourite site, Rosy plumped for Gournia, which I can well understand but I think she and Vince will long remember their walk up the Mesonas Gorge to the Kastro.
If you would like to see a video of the first part of the walk (not mine but courtesy of YouTube), paste the following link into your browser.